Sunday, August 31, 2014

US.7 - Dawn of the Dane

When Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki met on Day 7 in the U.S. Open Round of 16, it was a case of a player who's been struggling to find her form during the summer hard court season going up against the player who's posted the most wins on tour since Wimbledon. No matter the large difference in their grand slam results over the course of their respective careers, in order for the "favored" Russian to advance, both players would have to alter their recent course.

As it turned out, what we've seen over the course of the summer continued to play out at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and it just might have changed the meaning of the word "favorite." Not just at this U.S Open, but for the next phase of the career of the formerly #1-ranked Dane.

In the early going, the sort of slow start that has plagued Sharapova since -- and during -- her Roland Garros title run was back for yet another encore. That Wozniacki, with a tour-best sixteen hard court wins this summer, was busy employing many of her newly-aggressive game tactics only made the noticeable difference between the level of play of the two more stark. The Dane got an early break for 2-0, and led 3-1 as she flashed her willingness to approach the net for volley put-away shots. Still, even in the face of this very different Dane, Sharapova managed a break to close to within 3-2. But then the issues that have been dogging the Russian cropped up yet again -- her inconsistent serve and propensity for errors, especially on her forehand wing.

Sharapova immediately fell down love/40 in game #6. She got to game point, but double-faulted. After saving four break points, Sharapova held. But after taking a 30/love lead on Wozniacki's serve a game later, her ability to close abandoned her. Sharapova couldn't put the game away, and the Dane held for 4-3. In the tenth game of the set, Wozniacki grabbed a 30/love advantage on the Russian's serve. After Sharapova's bad error on a short ball -- her 20th UE in the set -- the game reached double break/set point for Wozniacki. Sharapova error #21 -- another forehand that crashed into the net -- gave Wozniacki the set at 6-4, and forced Sharapova to fight from behind after dropping the opening set for the sixth time in her last ten matches.

In the 2nd set, Sharapova managed the windy conditions, escaping with a tough hold in the second game after opening with a break of serve. For the rest of the set, the Russian's game picked up, but maybe more importantly it was the Dane's lack of forward movement that threatened to put an end to her resurgent summer. Playing the more defensive game that has aggravated so many tennis watchers over the years, Wozniacki was suddenly content once again to simply get the ball back over the net rather than come in behind her shots and hope for an error, or bring Sharapova forward toward the net. As a result, Sharapova dictated the rallies, cutting her error totals (12) and ending points in her customary fashion. Another break of Wozniacki's serve gave the Russian a 3-0 lead, and she pulled away to take the set at 6-2 to knot the match.

After a long break between sets, for which Sharapova was reprimanded for going over the 10-minute limit, it was Wozniacki who reclaimed her now-preferred game. In game #4, Wozniacki won her eighth straight point after a great defensive get from the Dane was netted by Sharapova to give the Dane the break and 3-1 lead. Wozniacki yelled and clenched her first, then turned Connorsesque for a moment, raising her arm in an attempt to stoke the crowd.

"Come on, I do THAT and that's all you've got? Cheer louder!" And the crowd did.

Sudddenly, this was Wozniacki's match to lose. If the Russian was waiting for her opponent to revert to past form, well, she's still waiting. Wozniacki's aggression and willingness to attack when presented with an opportunity were renewed and, not unexpectedly, the tactics continued to pay dividends. Sharapova never really got back into the flow of things. Serving down 5-2, Sharapova's error gave Wozniacki double match point at 40/15. Another backhand error sealed the deal.

Wozniacki's 6-4/2-6/6-2 victory, her third over a Top 10 player this summer, pushes her into a slam QF for the first time since the 2012 Australian Open. She's 17-3 since Wimbledon, and in her current form might just be the favorite to advance to her second career U.S. Open final from the bottom half of the women's draw. With her focus renewed, her head more clear and life a little less cluttered, the Dane, after all these years, might just finally be ready, willing and able to put on a legitimate push to fulfill her grand slam quest. After having difficulty taking down top players on big stages during her years at #1, this win could be the perfect confidence-booster that solidifies in her mind that the tweaks to her game that she resisted for so long DO indeed make her a more viable contender in situations like facing off with a former U.S. Open champ on Ashe for a berth in the second week of a slam.

Meanwhile, for all the success she's had on clay in recent seasons, Sharapova's game hasn't taken to the hard courts in New York for quite a long time. She's reached just one QF since her "Exquisite in the City" championship in 2006, and as she continues to be unable to find ways to remove the errors from her game, the Open will continue to be unforgiving when it comes to future success.

The Dane, though, has life. New life. Finally, Wozniacki's tennis lifeline is looking as if it could grow new wings. Fly, Caro, fly. You once said you "had time."

Well, what better time than right now?

...early in the day on Sunday, Sara Errani continued to thrive in her unofficial role of spoiler/dream crusher at this year's Open. After taking out crowd favorite Venus Williams on Friday, she outlasted underdog/qualifier/life favorite Mirjana Lucic-Baroni today, winning 6-3/2-6/6-0 to advance to her second QF in Flushing Meadows in the last two years.

Played in windy conditions, this is one of those matches that have the sort of stats that kind of make you chuckle, as the Italian's guts and defense helped produce some of the more lopsided numbers you'll ever see in a grand slam event. For the day, Lucic-Baroni led Errani in winners by the tune of 46-4, but her stunning disadvantage in unforced errors (69-9) more than made up the difference. Set by set, Lucic's winner numbers engulfed those of Errani: 1st (17-1), 2nd (20-2), 3rd (9-1). But the same was so for the UE's: 1st (24-1), 2nd (17-5 -- and MJB won that set), 3rd (28-3). The Croat only put in 50% of her 1st serves for the match.

Errani has arguably been the most fired up player at this Open. It's quite a contrast to the forlorn, stressed-out Errani we saw after her angst-heavy 2nd Round exit of a year ago.

...rain delays, the first of this Open, pushed the final two women's Round of 16 matches scheduled for Day 7 -- Jankovic vs. Bencic, Peng vs. Safarova -- into the evening. doubles, the Williams Sisters, with almost shocking ease, dispatched the Spanish duo of Garbine Muguruza & Carla Suarez-Navarro.

The intriguing wild card duo of Taylor Townsend and Donald Young have advanced to the Mixed quarterfinals.

...the junior competition began on Day 7, and one big name has already been ousted, as #5-seed Kristina Schmiedlova, the Wimbledon girls runner-up and Roland Garros quarterfinalist, was upset by Hungary's Anna Bondar. Another young Bannerette, Usue Arconada, defeated unseeded Brit Gabriella Taylor, while her brother Jordi also got a 1st Round victory in the boys competition.

...things are going on away from Flushing Meadows, as well. In Repentigny, Canada the Canadian Open Junior Championship took place over the past week. Swarmette Elena Gabriela Ruse, 16, took the title, defeating Britain's Katie Swan in the final. Ruse also claimed the doubles with Indonesian's Tami Grende, who also won the Wimbledon junior crown last month. Ruse had been in good form lately, also reaching the girls semifinals at Wimbledon and the final at the International Hard Court Championships in College Park, Maryland.

In ITF action, Swiss Conny Perrin swept the singles and doubles titles at the $15K challenger in Bagnatica, Italy. She won the final (career title #8, and third this season) over Italian Anastasia Grymalska, with whom she teamed up to take the doubles. Perrin has won three ITF doubles titles in the past four weeks, and now has twelve for her career.

The Force was with Jana Fett. The 17-year old Croat who reached the Australian Open girls final earlier this season grabbed her first career ITF singles title in the $10K in Ostrava, Czech Republic. 22-year old Swarmette Andreea Mitu, a recent qualifier at Wimbledon, won her fourth circuit title of 2014 in a $25K in Mamaia, Romania; while Dutch Quirine Lemoine claimed her fifth title of the season in the Rotterdam $10K event. Mexico's Marcela Zacarius, 20, won the $10K San Luis Potosi (MEX) event, defeating American Lauren Embree in the final. A week ago, Zacarius reached the final of another Mexican challenger event, losing to countrywoman Victoria Rodriguez in Rosarito Beach. The pair teamed up to win the doubles titles last week, though, and they did it again this time. Zacarius has won six ITF doubles titles this season, five of them with Rodriguez (and they've reached two other finals).

On the sisters front, Slovak Kristina Kucova won the $25K in Fleurus, Belgium with a final victory over Russia's Evgeniya Rodina, while Colombian twins Maria Paulina & Paula Andrea Perez took the doubles in the $10K in Quito, Ecuador.

...DISLIKE FROM DAY 7 / FUTURE LIKE FOR 2016: The "greatest tennis venue in the world" finally gets a roof... in only two more years. Progress takes time, I guess.

...GENIE FROM DAY 7: The art of winning friends and influencing scheduling.

...MORE GENIE FROM DAY 7: Well, we know it's coming. How long before she has a guest-star cameo on "The Big Bang Theory" anyway?

...DISLIKE FROM DAY 7: Mary Carillo talking about the rumors that Li Na may retire during the 4Q Asian swing of the 2014 season. You know the day is coming soon, but it's difficult to not want to put it off for as long as possible. At least until Melbourne. We don't need a second straight season in which a defending slam champion returns the following year having retired since her triumph. That's not a good trend.

...and, finally, Vika returns to the U.S. Open night session schedule on Monday, facing Aleksandra Krunic. Might we finally get the great night session match that has so far eluded this tournament?

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. Kaia Kanepi/EST
#11 Flavia Pennetta/ITA vs. #29 Casey Dellacqua/AUS
(Q) Aleksandra Krunic/SRB vs. #16 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
#17 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS vs. #7 Eugenie Bouchard/CAN
Belinda Bencic/SUI vs. #9 Jelena Jankovic/SRB
#14 Lucie Safarova/CZE vs. Peng Shuai/CHN
#10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS
#13 Sara Errani/ITA def. (Q) Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #22 Philipp Kohlschreiber/GER
#9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #8 Andy Murray/GBR
xx vs. #3 Stan Wawrinka/SUI
#10 Kei Nishikori/JPN vs. #5 Milos Raonic/CAN
#6 Tomas Berdych/CZE vs. Dominic Thiem/AUT
#14 Marin Cilin/CRO vs. #26 Gilles Simon/FRA
xx vs. xx
#17 Robert Bautista Agut/ESP vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

Gajdosova/Tomljanovic (AUS/AUS) vs. Hingis/Pennetta (SUI/ITA)
#9 Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova (RUS/AUS) vs. #5 Peschke/Srebotnik (CZE/SLO)
#3 C.Black/Mirza (ZIM/IND) vs. Jankovic/Koukalova (SRB/CZE)
Diyas/Y.Xu (KAZ/CHN) def. #11 Hradecka/Krajicek (CZE/NED)
S.Williams/V.Williams (USA/USA) def. Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro (ESP/ESP)
#4 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) def. King/Raymond (USA/USA)
#8 Hlavackova/J.Zheng (CZE/CHN) vs. Dabrowski/Rosolska (CAN/POL)
Date-Krumm/Zahlavova-Strycova (JPN/CZE) vs. #2 Hsieh/Peng (CHN/CHN)

#1 B.Bryan/M.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Klahn/Smyczek (USA/USA)
#9 Rojer/Tecau (NED/ROU) vs. #7 Marrero/Verdasco (ESP/ESP)
Lipsky/R.Ram (USA/USA) def. #3 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)
#12 Butorac/Klaasen (USA/RSA) d. Garcia-Lopez/Oswald (ESP/AUT)
#8 Pospisil/Sock (CAN/USA) vs. Berlocq/L.Mayer (ARG/ARG)
#4 Dodig/Melo (CRO/BRA) d. Fyrstenberg/Matkowski (POL/POL)
#6 Paes/Stepanek (IND/CZE) vs. #11 Granollers-Pujols/M.Lopez (ESP/ESP)
Kukushkin/Venus (RUS/NZL) vs. #2 Peya/Soares (AUT/BRA)

#1 Mirza/Soares (IND/BRA) vs. #6 Srebotnik/Bopanna (SLO/IND)
YJ.Chan/Hutchins (TPE/GBR) vs. Peschke/Matkowski (CZE/POL)
Spears/S.Gonzalez (USA/MEX) vs. #3 C.Black/Paes (ZIM/IND)
Barty/Peers (AUS/AUS) vs. [wc] Townsend/Young (USA/USA)

2007 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2008 Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
2012 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2013 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2014 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
AO: Ana Ivanovic, SRB
RG: Andrea Petkovic, GER
WI: Vika's white shorts
US: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN

AO: Karolina Pliskova, CZE
RG: Elina Svitolina, UKR
WI: Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
US: Daria Gavrilova, RUS
AO: An-Sophie Mestach, BEL
RG: Ons Jabeur, TUN
WI: Ashleigh Barty, AUS
AO: Grace Min, USA
AO: Taylor Townsend, USA
RG: Annika Beck, GER
WI: Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
US: Samantha Crawford, USA
AO: Ana Konjuh, CRO
RG: Belinda Bencic, SUI
WI: Belinda Bencic, SUI
US: Ana Konjuh, CRO
AO: Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
RG: Darya Kasatkina, RUS
WI: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
US: ??

JAN: Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
FEB: Veronika Kudermetova, RUS
MAR: Kristina Schmiedlova, SVK
APR: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
MAY: CiCi Bellis, USA
RG: Darya Kasatkina, RUS
JUN: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
JUL: Tornado Black, USA
AUG: CiCi Bellis, USA
[2014 Weekly Junior Star Award Wins]
5...Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
4...Paula Badosa Gibert, ESP
4...Kristina Schmiedlova, SVK
4...Iryna Shymanovich, BLR
3...CiCi Bellis, USA
3...Katie Boulter, GBR
3...Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, ESP
3...Varvara Flink, RUS
3...Darya Kasatkina, RUS
3...Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
2...Francoise Abanda, CAN
2...Jana Fett, CRO
2...Ivana Jorovic, SRB
2...Elena Gabriela Ruse, ROU
2...Nina Stojanovic, SRB
2...Fanny Stollar, HUN

TOP QUALIFIER: #32q Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Duan Yingying/CHN d. Irena Pavlovic/FRA 6-3/1-6/7-6(5) [Pavlovic up 5-1 3rd, held MP]
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - (WC) CiCi Bellis/USA d. #12 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK 6-1/4-6/6-4 (Bellis world #1208)
FIRST WINNER: #4 Aga Radwanska/POL (def. S.Fichman/CAN)
FIRST SEED OUT: #25 Garbine Muguruza/ESP (lost to M.Lucic-Baroni/CRO)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
REVELATION LADIES: United States (12 Bannerettes 2nd Rd.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: France (1-5 in 1st Rd.; only win in Pastry-vs.-Pastry match-up)
CRASH & BURN: #12 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK (AO runner-up; lost 1st Rd. to Bellis/USA, 15-year old in slam debut)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO (in Round of 16 for first time in 15 years, after family's abusive background<)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 4th Rd.: A.Krunic/SRB, M.Lucic-Baroni/CRO(L)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: Serena Williams/USA (in 4th Rd.)
IT ("Girl"): CiCi Bellis/USA (15-year old Wild Card; youngest MD win since 1996 - Anna Kournikova)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
BROADWAY-BOUND: Nominee: J.Jankovic/SRB, S.Errani/ITA, A.Krunic/SRB, B.Bencic/SUI, E.Bouchard/CAN
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: S.Williams/USA, E.Bouchard/CAN

All for now. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

bencic's point construction is so good. she still reminds me of monica seles in the way she looks (sometimes) and her slightly bent forward walk/march.

JJ has new hair?

Sun Aug 31, 09:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

that's what JJ got, couldn't serve out the set 2 times, then lost in TB. i can't see the match, but from statistics, they are quite equal, JJ is actually slightly better. which means, bencic is really playing the big points well. amazing. by the trend of it she might have a good chance.

what do you think, bottom half last 4 to feature everyone outside top 10 players in the world? ah, the unpredictable journey of WTA.

Sun Aug 31, 10:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Todd, thought you'd find this interesting. I knew Townsend had trained with Young's father, but I didn't know that they were all family friends from pre-birth.

Taylor certainly humanizes Donald a bit.

Mon Sep 01, 12:49:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ha... I think you posted that comment right as I posted the link!

I've really come to enjoy watching Young play since he's seemed to grow up a little the last couple of years. I hope he can continue to rise.

Mon Sep 01, 12:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Oh, I forgot to include the link...

It's really fun watching their doubles combo. They have some amazing touch shots. I watched their 1R match and they were a bit sloppy, but I'm sure they picked it up to be Hlavackova/Peya.

(Going back to the unapproachable topic...I feel like even his first name makes him unappropachable. I was trying to type Donald or Don...and it just didn't feel right. Maybe bc I don't know any Donalds in my everyday life... And then Young felt very formal and stiff too. Dunno.)

Mon Sep 01, 09:33:00 AM EDT  

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